Nutraceutical Astaxanthin

The Company’s first major product is a dietary supplement, or nutraceutical, rich in astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is made by Haematococcus, a fresh water microalga. Astaxanthin is a powerful, bioactive anti-oxidant and has demonstrated efficacy in animal or human models of:

  • Macular Degeneration: the leading cause of blindness in the U.S.
  • Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease: major neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Cholesterol Disease: ameliorates the effects of LDL, the “bad” cholesterol.
  • Stroke: repairs damage caused by lack of oxygen.
  • Cancer: protects against several major types of cancer.

Astaxanthin and Health

A summary of a representative sample of the scientific literature supporting these data follows below:

Astaxanthin as a general biological antioxidant
Astaxanthin has been shown to be a powerful quencher of singlet oxygen activity in in vitro studies (DiMascio et al. 1990; Miki 1991), and is a strong scavenger of oxygen free radicals, at least ten times stronger than beta-carotene (Miki 1991). Experiments with red blood cells and mitochondria from rats have shown that Astaxanthin is 100 times more effective at inhibiting lipid peroxidation than is vitamin E (Miki 1991). The results of these in vitro studies were confirmed in vivo with rats given dietary supplements of Astaxanthin and subjected to oxidizing agents (Miki 1991). The antioxidative properties of Astaxanthin have been demonstrated in a number of different biological membranes (Kurashige et al. 1990; Palozza and Krinsky 1992; Oshima et al. 1993; Nakagawa et al. 1997). Other tests have shown that astaxanthin is up to 1000 times more powerful than Vitamin E (Tso, 1996).

Astaxanthin as an anti-cancer agent
Studies of the cancer-preventative properties of Astaxanthin have been carried out on rats and mice by Takuji Tanaka and colleagues at the Gifu University School of Medicine. Dietary administration of Astaxanthin proved to significantly inhibit carcinogenesis in the mouse urinary bladder (Tanaka et al. 1994), rat oral cavity (Tanaka et al. 1995a), and rat colon (Tanaka et al. 1995b). In addition, Astaxanthin has been shown to induce xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes in rat liver, a process which may help prevent carcinogenesis (Gradelet et al. 1996).

Astaxanthin for support of the immune system
Astaxanthin has been shown to significantly influence immune function in a number of in vitro and in vivo assays using animal models. The majority of this work has been carried out by Harumi Jyonouchi and colleagues at the University of Minnesota. Astaxanthin enhances in vitro antibody production by mouse spleen cells stimulated with sheep red blood cells (Jyonouchi et al. 1991), at least in part by exerting actions on T-cells, especially T-helper cells (Jyonouchi et al. 1993). Astaxanthin can also partially restore decreased humoral immune responses in old mice (Jyonouchi et al. 1994). These immunomodulating properties are not related to provitamin-A activity, because Astaxanthin, unlike beta-carotene, does not have such activity (Jyonouchi et al. 1991). Studies on human blood cells in vitro have demonstrated enhancement by Astaxanthin of immunoglobulin production in response to T-dependent stimuli (Jyonouchi et al. 1995a). Other supporting data on Astaxanthin and immune function, including studies on the mechanisms of action involved, may be found in Jyonouchi et al. (1995b), Jyonouchi et al. (1996), Okai & Higashi-Okai (1996), and Tomita et al. (1993)

Astaxanthin for health of the eye and central nervous system
There is abundant evidence that certain carotenoids can help protect the retina from oxidative damage (Snodderly 1995). A recent study with rats indicates that Astaxanthin is effective at ameliorating retinal injury, and that it is also effective at protecting photoreceptors from degeneration (Tso and Lam 1996). The results of this study suggest that Astaxanthin could be useful for prevention and treatment of neuronal damage associated with age-related macular degeneration, and that it may also be effective at treating ischemic reperfusion injury, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, and other types of central nervous system injuries (Tso and Lam 1996). In this study, Astaxanthin was found to easily cross the blood-brain barrier (unlike beta-carotene), and did not form crystals in the eye (unlike canthaxanthin; Tso and Lam 1996).

Astaxanthin as a photo-protectant
The strong antioxidative activities of Astaxanthin suggest its potential as a photoprotectant, although the effects of Astaxanthin on mice exposed to UV irradiation have not been conclusive (Savour et al. 1995; Black 1998). Nevertheless, Astaxanthin-containing preparations for prevention of light aging of skin have been developed (Suzuki et al. 1996a, 1996b).

Astaxanthin for treatment of infections
Astaxanthin may be effective as a prophylactic and/or therapeutic treatment of Helicobacter infections of the mammalian gastrointestinal tract, and an oral preparation has been developed for this purpose (Alejung and Wadstroem 1998).

Astaxanthin for prevention of arteriosclerosis and related diseases Astaxanthin has been shown in both in vitro experiments and in a study with human subjects to be effective for the prevention of the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (Miki et al. 1998). This suggests that it could be used as a preventative for arteriosclerosis, coronary artery disease, and ischemic brain damage; a number of astaxanthin-containing health products are under development based on these findings (Miki et al. 1998). Astaxanthin has also been shown to enhance production of LDL and especially HDL cholesterol in the bloodstream of rats (Murillo 1992).

Astaxanthin in anti-inflammatory preparations
Astaxanthin diesters appear to exert a synergistic effect on anti-inflammatory agents, increasing the effectiveness of aspirin when the two are administered together (Yamashita 1995).

Safety of Astaxanthin for human consumption
A study on rats designed to test the toxicity of Astaxanthin failed to find any harmful effects of a diet containing 400 ppm Astaxanthin after 41 days of feeding (Nishikawa et al. 1997). Furthermore, no mutagenicity of Astaxanthin was detected in an in vitro study (Miki et al. 1998). Actual administration of Astaxanthin in human subjects has been carried out at doses up to 14.4 mg/day for two weeks with no ill effects (Miki et al. 1998).

Scientific Research References